Mangrove and saltmarsh habitats are commonly known as coastal wetlands and are usually located within the low-lying intertidal zone. They are covered during higher tides and grow in waterlogged soil.
Mangroves are woody trees or shrubs that have physically adapted their leaves, reproductive methods and root system to the harsh, salty conditions in which they grow.
Coastal saltmarsh occupy the high tide zone and include plants such as sedges, rushes and grasses, in addition to succulent herbs and shrubs that tolerate high soil salinity and occasional flooding. In South Australia, saltmarsh communities are very diverse and productive systems.
These habitats provide many ecological services and are important feeding and roosting grounds for many migratory and resident shorebird species. They also act as a nursery for juvenile fish species and help improve water quality before it enters the ocean, effectively sheltering seagrass meadows and reefs from damaging sedimentation from dirty water. Mangroves in particular also protect the coast from wind damage, salt spray and coastal erosion.
Unfortunately, in the past these systems were undervalued and many have been drained, reclaimed or lost because of human activities. In more recent times, however, the value of these habitats has been recognised and large-scale projects have helped restore some of the systems that have been lost in the past.